A/N: What happens after Episode 1.17 “Baby Blue.”
Despite not having slept much the night before and being dog-tired, Finch could not tear himself away from his computer at the library. His thoughts swirled in circles around the events of the day and (knowing that he would not be able to sleep, anyway) he had given up on the thought of going to one of his apartments for the night. He kept several changes of clothing here, and there was a shower in a back bathroom in tolerable working order – he would clean up and do his best to look refreshed by the time Reese arrived in the morning. Not that he had any illusions about being able to fool his sharp-eyed partner.
Reese did arrive, and it was, technically, morning; however, it was only 3:10AM. He seemed just as surprised to find Finch still working at his desk as Finch was to see him saunter in.
“Good morning, Mr. Reese.”
“Good morning, Mr. Finch,” Reese responded with amused formality. “What are you doing here at such a godforsaken hour?”
“I could ask the same of you… although I have a fairly good guess.”
“Yes… I thought I saw a vaguely familiar shadow lurking in the corners of a hallway at Mercy Medical. I take it that New York’s Finest were making it rather difficult for you to find out anything about Detective Szymanski’s condition.”
“They do take care of their own,” he acknowledged, sitting down next to Finch and peering into the computer. As he expected, Finch pulled up the information from the hospital – including the live feed of the hallway surveillance camera – with only a few keystrokes.
“He’s still in critical condition, but he seems to have come out of surgery well enough and is relatively stable. Of course, with an abdominal injury, he has a long road of rehab ahead… as you well know.”
Reese nodded without so much as a wince, his face almost expressionless as he gazed at the monitor. Finch tapped a few more keys and another window popped up.
“I took the liberty of setting up a trust fund for officers injured in the line of duty – specifically those who have been shot,” Finch continued. “Each officer will receive ten thousand dollars, after taxes, to help with whatever expenses the department doesn’t cover. I set it up with twenty million from an anonymous donor – ten from me and ten from you – so even here in New York City, it should last a while.”
Reese turned to meet Finch’s eyes wordlessly for a moment.
“Thanks. But that’s not my money.”
“I could take it out of your paycheck for the next twenty years or so, if that would make you feel better.”
A slight twitch at the corner of Reese’s mouth was all that the dry remark could elicit. Finch had sensed the gloomy shadow of his partner’s mood from the moment he had walked in, which was evident in the very way the man carried himself, but now he felt it blanketing the small room with a silent chill. Hoping to disperse it, he stood up, his body protesting the movement after being so long in one position.
“It’s been a rather long day, Mr. Reese… Could I interest you in some herbal tea? I would offer you something stronger, but I don’t have anything stocked here…”
“Thanks. Tea sounds great.”
Reese also stood and walked over to a window to stare out at the unsleeping city while Finch put the kettle on the portable burner and pottered about preparing their tea. The silence of the taller man was heavy, but not uncomfortable, for Finch understood quite well what he was brooding over. Some things simply required more time to digest.
When the tea was ready, Finch joined Reese at the window with the mugs. They took several sips in silence, looking out through the grimy windows at the dusky twilight of the streets below. The stars overhead were obscured by the lights of the city, and even the moon was a barely visible sliver in the small patch of sky.
After a moment, Finch caught sight of Reese rubbing his left wrist (the hand holding the mug) with his right – an almost unconscious motion, no doubt caused by the continual irritation of his torn skin. Setting his mug down on the window ledge, Finch shuffled to the other room, returning with a tube of ointment. He was more concerned with the fact that Reese did not look up to see what he was doing, but of course he could do nothing about that.
“Let me see your wrists, John.”
“What?” Reese said, finally stirring from his melancholy thoughts. “Oh… But I already sterilized them.”
“Sterilizing is one thing; treating is another,” Finch insisted, taking his partner’s right hand almost by force and frowning at the redness of his chafed skin. He gently dabbed and smoothed on the ointment, so focused on the task that he did not notice the vulnerable expression with which Reese was watching him. When that wrist was done to his satisfaction, he let go of it and waited, squeezing some more ointment onto his finger. Obediently, Reese set his mug down and gave him his left hand, allowing him to resume his ministrations.
“Thanks,” Reese’s soft voice fell on Finch’s ears.
“And thanks for… not saying, ‘I told you so.'”
Finch paused in his work, glancing up at Reese and seeing the woundedness in his dark eyes. He carefully chose his words, turning his attention back to Reese’s wrist before speaking.
“While I admire Detective Carter’s faith in the NYPD, I’m not so naïve as to think that they could have rescued Leila in time, John. If you hadn’t contacted Elias… she would have been out of the country, untraceable, before the police could have caught up with those men. She has a chance at life, now – to grow up in a happy, loving home – because you did what you had to do. As inadvisable as it may have been, at least you got results.”
Finished with applying the ointment, Finch released Reese’s hand and screwed the cap back on the tube.
“I’m sorry that Detective Carter doesn’t wish to work with us anymore, but perhaps it’s for the best… She was bound to start asking questions that we couldn’t answer, and sooner or later we would have had to go our separate ways. I’m also very sorry about Detective Szymanski, but he knew the risks of dealing with Elias when he agreed to protect Moretti; he could have been shot at any time.”
Finch looked up at Reese, making sure that his words were sinking in.
“In fact, if you hadn’t been there, Carter might have been the one shot by Elias’ men – left to bleed out on that road with no medical help immediately forthcoming. And her loss, as you have said yourself, is not something that this city can afford.”
Reese swallowed and turned away, casting his unseeing gaze out the window again. Finch set the tube of ointment on the window ledge next to the two cooled mugs of tea.
“Don’t beat yourself up over this, John… You did the best you could, and you were able to save a baby girl. I know you would have died before you told Elias where to find Moretti, and so did Elias. That’s why he let you rescue Leila first, so he could use her as leverage against you. But I can’t help but think… Moretti is only getting what he deserves. He had Elias’ mother murdered, after all! So even if he’s killed in cold blood by his own son, it was of his own doing. It was either that or languish for the rest of his life in prison, and who knows which he would have preferred, anyway?”
“I don’t think Elias means to execute him,” Reese interrupted, a line of worry creasing his brow. “If that’s all he wanted to do, he could have had him killed in prison, or even on that road… No, I’m afraid he has something more in mind for his dad – something to strengthen his control over this city. Moretti had ruled the underground once before; I’m sure he could help Elias do it again.”
To that, Finch had no reply. He stared out the window as well, horrified by the scenario Reese had painted for him, his wide-open eyes reflected in the glass. Reese sighed, then picked up the tube of ointment and turned to Finch.
“But that’s another battle for another day,” he murmured, taking a dab of the ointment to spread it on the red gash on Finch’s forehead. “We’ll deal with that problem when we get to it.”
“Yes… I suppose so,” Finch agreed, startled at the other man’s touch despite how gentle it was. “I have every confidence in your success the next time, John… as long as you aren’t hampered by having to protect a baby or some other, equally helpless person.”
“Thanks… I hope you’re right.”
Setting the tube of ointment back on the window ledge, Reese managed a faint smile.
“Thanks for the tea and… everything.”
Before Finch had a chance to respond to that, Reese leaned in to place his lips on the shorter man’s forehead – close to the gash but not touching it – and let them linger there.
“Goodnight, Harold,” he whispered, then turned to leave the building.
A long moment later, with his mouth gone completely dry, Finch rasped, “Goodnight, John.” It was hard to know if the retreating figure had heard the words, but at least Finch knew that he would be back again in a few hours, ready to take on a new Number presented to them by the Machine.